Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web Premium review

Price when reviewed

CS5.5 Design Premium has web delivery covered for typical, code-phobic designers but for more technically-minded web developers, Adobe provides CS5.5 Web Premium. Essentially, this provides all the CS5.5 Design Premium applications with the exception of InDesign CS5.5.

In its place, CS5.5 Web Premium includes Contribute CS5 (not updated) and Flash Builder 4.5 Premium, an Eclipse-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for programmers to build and code Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).

Flash Builder 4.5 Premium

The key to Flash Builder is Adobe’s Flex framework, based on MXML for handling the user interface, and ActionScript 3 for logic. Here, the new Flex 4.5 SDK extends the range of easily skinnable Spark UI components, with new options such as Form, Image and DataGrid. Other advances include improved control over multiscreen layout, and the ability to create projects that can be interchanged with Flash Catalyst CS5.5. In addition, Adobe provides over 100 new best-practice templates for MXML, ActionScript and CSS and these can now be added using enhanced Code Assist, along with users’ own snippets.

Adobe Flash Builder 4.5 Premium

Again, the highlight for Flash Builder 4.5 Premium is AIR-based delivery for mobile devices. Select the new Flex Mobile Project type and, as well as a range of starter templates, you get to work in wysiwyg Design View and take advantage of automatic application-scaling, depending on screen size and automatic screen reorientation. Currently, Flex support is limited to Android devices, but anyone who wants to target the iPhone and iPad can do so by creating ActionScript-only mobile projects. A Flex update for iOS (and BlackBerry) has been promised in the near future.

Compared to the thoroughly modern and professional Microsoft Expression Studio 4, Flash Builder 4.5 Premium can seem old-fashioned and even half-baked. However, developing for the Flash platform has always offered the unbeatable advantage of deep integration with Adobe’s market-leading design applications, combined with the near-ubiquity of the Flash and AIR runtimes across desktops and now mobile devices.

The overall verdict

It’s the combination of all-encompassing richness and reach that is the hallmark of Creative Suite as a whole. Apple’s refusal to support the Flash and AIR runtimes on its iPhone and iPad devices threatened to bring this rich and universal, produce-once, view-anywhere vision crashing to a halt. However, with CS5.5, Adobe has come up with workaround solutions built upon folio-based digital publishing, the HTML5 web standards and repackaging AIR applications.

The results are by no means ideal for producer or consumer alike, and hopefully pressure will build to persuade Apple to support the runtimes directly. However CS5.5 does ensure that Adobe’s designers and developers can still create the richest possible work for the widest possible audience, and now target all users in the crucial new mobile market.

Can’t afford CS5.5?

There’s no denying the sheer cost of the Creative Suite, and its now annual updates, has become a serious issue. With CS5.5 Adobe has done something about it, by introducing a new subscription model.

Now you can effectively choose to rent, rather than buy, Adobe’s main CS5.5 editions and applications, with prices ranging from £24 for a month’s use of Dreamweaver through to £174 for the full Master Collection. If you commit to a full year, which includes automatic updates, the monthly pricing drops accordingly, with prices ranging from £16 up to £116.

Again, it isn’t cheap and before two years are up you’ll have spent more on renting than you would have done on buying. But it does provide flexibility for those who simply can’t afford the upfront cost. It could also prove attractive to users of older versions of Adobe’s suites and apps looking for occasional access to modern capabilities.

The group that the subscription model offers least to is existing CS5 users, as they would have to pay the same undiscounted rate. As such, these users will need to carefully weigh up whether it’s worth buying a traditional upgrade or crossgrade – or whether it makes more sense to hold off for a year and see what CS6 brings.

The good news is that, by extending CS5.5’s output to the full range of modern mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad, Adobe has given its users the best possible reason to upgrade: the opportunity to make themselves money from a creatively exciting and potentially enormous new market.


Software subcategory Graphics/design software

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